Posts tagged ‘Christian’

November 21st, 2011

Any Mosques Turning into Churches?

While participating in a panel discussion at Moody Church recently, Dr. Erwin Lutzer asked me a question a Muslim man had asked him. He was trying to highlight the plight of persecuted church in Muslim majority countries. The Muslim had argued Islam was the true religion simply because there were no mosques turning into churches but there are churches turning into mosques. The question was, “Are there any mosques turning into churches?”

In my answer, I noted the only mosque I knew of in Cordova, Spain, which was turned into a church building. Muslims had conquered Cordova and turned a Catholic church into a mosque. It remained a mosque for a few centuries until Spaniards overthrew the city and turned the mosque into what it used to be, a church building.

How this Muslim man would claim Islam is a true religion based on mosques not turning into church buildings is baffling. I wonder if he knows most Muslim majority countries do not even allow repairs on existing church buildings let alone establishment of new ones, which is an avenue for turning mosques into church buildings!

I added, no mosques are turning into church buildings because the playing field is not leveled in Muslim majority countries. There is no religious freedom for non-Muslims. Many Muslims who secretly follow Jesus Christ would come forward and establish a place of worship for themselves if it weren’t for threats they face.

We need to tell our Muslim friends a building is not what constitutes a church. A church is a body of believers. A Christian—one who professes Jesus Christ is the Son of God and abides by His Word—is a member of “church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.” This Church even has members who are of Muslim background in a country as restrictive and hostile to Christians as Saudi Arabia. Though without walls, this church is flourishing and if freedom of religion were granted, would convert mosques into church buildings.

October 11th, 2011

Are new Bible Translations Pandering to Muslims?

World Magazine has a new article, “Holding translators accountable,” in its October 8, 2011 issue, which covers Wycliffe Bible Translators and its agreement “to new standards in debate over contextualizing Scripture for Muslim settings.” World further reports, “The problem with translating “Son of God” and “God the Father” literally in Muslim contexts, translators say, is that it implies that God had sexual relations with Mary. Some translators have turned to non-literal renderings, like “beloved one of God.””

These new translations geared toward Muslims create more problems in Christian outreach to Muslims than Muslims’ problem with “trinity.” Muslims need to know the Qur’an erroneously accuses Christians of worshiping three gods: father, mother and son. The Qur’an even questions how the father could have a son without a consort (6:101.) If we Christians can’t articulate Biblical teachings which even ancient Christian creeds addressed long before the advent of Islam, we have a ginormous problem.

Some Christians have suggested adopting “interpretations” or “meanings” to refer to Bible versions since they are translations of original languages. Muslims came up with these excuses in order to downplay problems with the Qur’an. They even argue “one cannot discuss the Qur’an without knowing classical Arabic.” Are we going to argue Bible translations are not true renderings of original Greek and Hebrew?

If Muslims are offended and would not get saved because of the true rendering of the Scripture as it was in the original languages, it is not our fault. Remember He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”

August 18th, 2011

Jesus Christ and the flat Earth?

Abdul Seid writes:

The bible says in Gospel of Matthew Ch 4 V 8 “Again, the devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” and also in Gospel of Luke Ch 4 V 5 “The devil, leading him (Jesus) up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” Now these verses show that the Bible assumes that the earth is flat. Because even if you go to the tallest mountain on earth and supposedly you have a very good vision and can see thousands of miles yet you will not be able to see all the kingdom of the world because today we know the earth is spherical and it is impossible to to [sic] see the opposite side of the earth. The only way you will be able to see all the kingdoms of the earth is if the earth was flat. So Brother Hussien [sic] what do you think about this. i [sic] want to read what you have to say.

Thank you.

Abdul claims since Jesus Christ saw “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” in the Gospel, the “Bible assumes that the earth is flat.” He has been unable to debunk my assertions that fasting during Ramadhan is manmade because the rules are specific to Arabia and its environs. Had God All knowing invented this fast, He would have known these rules would not have applied in certain parts of the world Muslims now inhabit. (This same God in the Qur’an claims the sun “set in a spring of murky water” and Muhammad, his prophet, claimed when the sun sets “it prostrates Itself underneath the Throne” of Allah.)

The Qur’an gives uniform rules for fasting during Ramadhan—from dawn to dusk—totally disregarding Polar Regions. These rules are only fair for people who live in areas where length of days and nights are similar throughout the year. The Qur’an claims fasting should not be burdensome to Muslims so much so that Muslims who travel are exempt from observing it. If a mere travel is burdensome enough to warrant skipping to fast, how about Muslims in Polar Regions. It is more than a burden, for example, for a Muslim in Barrow, Alaska, to fast for a few months without breaking his or her fast because the sun does not set during certain summer months. Abdul couldn’t answer my questions. He now enlists the Bible in his attempts to make the Qur’an appear relevant.

First, Abdul needs to know that the verses in question do not implicate the Bible as claiming the earth is flat. Jesus Christ is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father and indeed was and is able to see “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” by the virtue of Him being a part of the Holy Trinity. The Almighty is all seeing, Jesus Christ, even while he was here on earth, was all seeing. He had two distinct natures. He was 100 percent God and 100 percent human. The fact that Abdul and his fellow Muslims object to it while relying on a doctrine that came at least 600 years after the fact does not change the fact.

Secondly, unlike in the Qur’an, Scripture interprets Scripture in the Bible. When the meaning of a verse appears obscure in the Bible, another verse or passage might make it clearer.

The two verses Abdul has quoted do not assume “that the earth is flat.” I am glad Abdul quoted Luke 4:5 which shows Jesus saw “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” “A moment of time” is the same as instant. Some kingdoms were thousands of miles from Jerusalem. So here, it is possible the human part of Jesus saw “all the kingdoms” in a vision. Scripture does not give explicit details as to what form Satan took to tempt Jesus.  Also, reference to the “kingdoms of the earth” does not make any indication as to the height or flatness of what they saw…it simply states what they saw.

Further, from Luke’s perspective, “all the kingdoms of the earth” could be a reference to the then-known world of trade, which is much smaller than the entire world we know today. Scripture makes other similar contextual references, as in I Samuel 6:8, saying, “And David was displeased because the LORD had broken out upon Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah [that is, The breach of Uzzah] to this day.” In modern time, the place is not called Perezuzzah any more, but that doesn’t undermine biblical authority.  The biblical authors wrote in context of the knowledge they had of the world.

Abdul has been trying to distract from the subject at hand, bringing up unrelated topics to the discussion about whether fasting during the month of Ramadhan is manmade. He tried three times to change the subject. Please read his comments HERE and most importantly pray for him to see the Light.

July 1st, 2011

Does the Bible Condone Rape?

A Muslim on Facebook asks, “hussein is this good treatmen [sic] of wojman [sic]” after quoting Deuteronomy 22:28-29. He quotes a rendering of these verses which is off literal translation. His quote, “If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.”

Muslims have asked this question numerous times to try to portray the Bible as condoning rape and their question has been answered. I am not going to reinvent an answer to this question but enlist a friend, Sam Shamoun, who has already answered the same question.

Sam is an Iraqi Christian who is a Christian apologist at Answering Islam. The following is what he wrote HERE in response to Muslims:

Some Muslims claim that the following passage from the Holy Bible condones rape:

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated (anah) her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NIV

There are two points to note here. First, even though the verse may seem to be instructing the rapist to marry the victim the passage nowhere sanctions, condones or even approves of rape. This is simply a gross misreading of the text. The injunction is intended to instruct the Israelites on how to deal with and address a rape situation if and when it occurs.

Second, by taking a careful look at the context and consulting the original languages of the Scriptures a strong case can be made that this is citation isn’t even addressing a rape case at all. We must remember that the Holy Bible was not written in English. The OT was written in Hebrew, with parts of it being written in Aramaic. The NT was written in Koine or common Greek. This means that if we want to know whether an English translation has faithfully and accurately translated the inspired author’s intended meaning we must turn to the original language of the sacred text. Once this is done, it will become quite apparent that the Holy Bible does not sanction rape at all.

With this just said, the word which the NIV translates as rape comes from two Hebrew words, taphas and shakab. Here are the meanings listed by the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon in reference to these two words:

Continued

June 17th, 2011

Interfaith Dialogue: Faith Shared’s Read this Qur’an Verse but Don’t Read that?

Sunday, June 26, 2011 is a day Muslims, Christians and Jews will gather together in worship services to read passages from the Qur’an, Torah and the Gospel. Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First are jointly offering this event dubbed Faith Shared. The main purpose of Faith Shared is to combat Islamophobia.

I strongly believe Faith Shared is an exercise in futility because its organizers do not acknowledge there is a problem in Islam. They think taking verses of the Qur’an out of their contexts for photo-ops would combat Islamophobia. We can only combat Islamophobia candidly if we distinguish it from Muslimophobia. Photo-ops wouldn’t do it. Only open and honest discussions away from places of worship would do it.

Here are verses (in red) of the Qur’an Faith Shared has suggested for congregants to read next Sunday:

  1. O humankind, We (God) have created you male and female, and made you into communities and tribes, so that you may know one another. (49:13) This verse only applies to Muslims. “O humankind” in the Qur’an is not always inclusive of all mankind. Faith Shared would like the world to believe so. This verse was revealed because a Muslim had insulted a fellow Muslim. More details HERE.
  2. Let there be no hostility except against those who practice Zulm (oppression). (2:193) This verse which organizers of this can only quote partially clearly shows Muslims are not supposed to turn the other cheek. So much for Faith Shared gathering with Christians and Muslims discussing nonviolence. The most prominent Sunni Tafsir says: (And fight them) if they initiate fighting against you whether you are in the Sacred Precinct or not (until persecution is no more) until there is not association of partners with Allah in the Sacred Precinct, (and religion is for Allah) and Islam and worship of Allah reign in the Sacred Precinct. (If they desist) from fighting you in the Sacred Precinct, (then let there be no hostility) you are not allowed to kill them (except against wrong-doers) except those who start the fight against you.

The Qur’an and the Hadith consider Christians who didn’t acknowledge Muhammad’s prophethood as enemies. In fact Christians are considered the worst of sinners because they associate “partners with Allah.” Sadly, this verse does not support the goal of Faith Shared.

3. There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith. (2:256)

This is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Qur’an. Do you know that it was revealed when Muhammad had very few followers? He cursed the first two Muslims who had apostatized and when he gained more power prescribed death for apostasy. You can find more details HERE.

4. Verily! Those who have attained faith as well as those who follow the Jewish Faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians—all who believe in God and the last Day and do righteous deeds—shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (2:62)

This verse is about “Christians” and Jews who had acknowledged Muhammad as a prophet. Here is what the commentary says:

The verse (Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews…) was revealed about the monks with whom Salman al-Farisi kept company. When Salman went to see the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, he informed him about their worship and striving. He said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! They used to pray and fast; they believed in you and bore witness that you will be sent as a prophet’. When Salman finished his praise of them, Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘O Salman! They are of the dwellers of hell fire’. Allah then revealed (Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews) up to His saying (neither shall they grieve).

5. Correct and courteous words accompanied by forgiveness are better than a charitable deed followed by insulting words. (2:263)

Now that you have read Faith Shared suggested readings from the Qur’an that supposedly foster interfaith dialogues, please consider these Qur’an verses in three widely available and most notable translations:

3.85

YUSUFALI: If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).

PICKTHAL: And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.

SHAKIR: And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

4.101

YUSUFALI: When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.

PICKTHAL: And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.

SHAKIR: And when you journey in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve will cause you distress, surely the unbelievers are your open enemy.

5.33

YUSUFALI: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

PICKTHAL: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;

SHAKIR: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,Surah 8:12: “God revealed His will to the angels, saying…I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers”

5.51

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

SHAKIR: O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.

5.59

YUSUFALI: Say: “O people of the Book! Do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?”

PICKTHAL: Say: O People of the Scripture! Do ye blame us for aught else than that we believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed aforetime, and because most of you are evil-livers?

SHAKIR: Say: O followers of the Book! do you find fault with us (for aught) except that we believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed before, and that most of you are transgressors?

5.60

YUSUFALI: Say: “Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil;- these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!”

PICKTHAL: Shall I tell thee of a worse (case) than theirs for retribution with Allah? (Worse is the case of him) whom Allah hath cursed, him on whom His wrath hath fallen and of whose sort Allah hath turned some to apes and swine, and who serveth idols. Such are in worse plight and further astray from the plain road.

SHAKIR: Say: Shall I inform you of (him who is) worse than this in retribution from Allah? (Worse is he) whom Allah has cursed and brought His wrath upon, and of whom He made apes and swine, and he who served the Shaitan; these are worse in place and more erring from the straight path.

8.60

YUSUFALI: Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.

PICKTHAL: Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged.

SHAKIR: And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.

8.61

YUSUFALI: But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

PICKTHAL: And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, even He, is the Hearer, the Knower.

SHAKIR: And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Muslims who are involved in interfaith dialogues need to explain the meanings behind these verses. I have deliberately left out the so-called “verse of sword” and a few others because the post is getting too long. I am not opposed to Christians having dialogues with Muslims as long as the discussions are open and candid.

June 16th, 2011

The Qur’an, a Donkey, Peace and Interfaith Dialogue

Muslims know what is at stake in interfaith dialogues. They participate in them knowing Islam has a battered image around the world that desperately needs improvement. Sadly, some Christians who participate in these dialogues have no clue about Muslims’ intentions. They are involved in promoting “peace” but fail to realize their efforts inadvertently improve Islam’s global image.

Muslims and even some Christians who engage in interfaith dialogues misquote the Qur’an in order to bolster Islam’s image, promoting its nonexistent image of inclusiveness. They often selectively quote chapters of the Qur’an while leaving out verses that would obliterate their arguments. There are many examples but today I will deal with the most abused verse of the Qur’an in interfaith dialogues, which is found in Suratul Al-Hujraat (chapter 49 of the Qur’an). Verse 13 states:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Every article I have read on interfaith dialogue involving Muslims uses this Qur’an verse. Unfortunately, this verse has nothing to do with non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims sell out on the “O mankind” portion of the verse but mankind does not always include non-Muslims in the Qur’an. Islam is not as inclusive as Muslims and non-Muslim interfaith interlocutors would like people to believe.

This verse was revealed to address a case of racism, which involved Bilal, a Black Muslim during Muhammad’s time who used to call Muslims to pray. One day when Bilal sounded the call to pray, an Arab Muslim said, “Did Allah and His Messenger not find anyone to call to prayer except this raven.” That was when verse 13 was revealed. It clearly has nothing to do with non-Muslims but everything to do with Muslims. Mankind here referred to Muslims.

Muslims and Christians who quote verse 13 and mislabel it as a verse that promotes interfaith dialogue also totally ignore verse 9 of the same chapter, which called on Muslims to fight each other over a trivial issue. Verse 9 commands:

If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).

This verse was revealed when a donkey urinated and one Muslim quipped “the smell of the donkey’s urine is sweeter-smelling than” another Muslim’s fragrances. This trivial insult escalated into a fight then this verse was revealed.

The Qur’an calls on Muslims to fight each other over a minor issue like a donkey’s urine, what are the chances for ardent Muslims to live at peace with Christians who are the worst of the sinners! The same book accuses Christians of ascribing partners to Allah, calling their worship the most heinous sin.

It is mind-boggling Muslims and non-Muslims take the Qur’an out of context or change intended meanings of its verses in order to come up with a palatable message on interfaith dialogue. I am not opposed to interfaith dialogues as long as they candidly tackle issues at hand. Jesus Christ has called us to be peacemakers but let us not use our calling as an occasion to spread a fake image of Islam.

June 15th, 2011

Islam’s Debilitating Public Relations Hemorrhage and Christian Rescue Efforts

Islam has faced a debilitating public relations hemorrhage since September 11, 2001. That dreadful day brought to the fore some manifestations of Islamic teachings, which led ordinary Muslims, Muslim civil leaders, scholars and civil rights organizations scampering to mitigate further damage to their religion. Some Muslims even enlisted non-Muslims’ help in this endeavor. Surprisingly, even prominent Christian clergies and scholars have inadvertently answered the Muslim call.

If you think some prominent Christian leaders in the West are confused about Islam, you are not alone. Faith Shared—a project of Interfaith Alliance—reflects some of that confusion. It has nationwide events scheduled for Sunday, June 26, 2011. Various churches are hosting worship services where suggested verses from the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an will be read. Faith Shared will provide suggestions on how to incorporate this program into hosting churches’ regular Sunday worship services “but communities are encouraged to choose readings that will resonate with their congregations.”

The purpose of this event is to combat “a pervasive and unsettling trend of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and rhetoric, as well as a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Gathering together in these worship services is necessary “for faith communities to strengthen ties with each other.”

While I commend Interfaith Alliance for coming up with an idea of getting Christians, Jews and Muslims together, here are three problems:

  1. Muslim misconceptions about Christians and Christianity predate any Muslim’s (other than Prophet Muhammad’s) encounter with a Christian or Christianity and have nothing to do with Islam being misunderstood or Muslims being persecuted. Reading the Qur’an in worship service for photo-ops is not going to alleviate Muslims’ misconceptions of Christians and Christianity.
  2. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance claims “specific passages in each tradition can be and have been ripped from their historical/scriptural context and manipulated to promote division, nurture hatred, and even inspire violence.” There is no such thing as “historical/scriptural context” in the Faith Shared suggested Qur’an verses, which remotely come close to Faith Shared goal of Christians, Muslims and Jews strengthening “ties with each other.”
  3. A Sunday worship service is not a place to achieve this faith-shared goal. A better idea would be inviting Muslims to congregants’ homes for meals. Having discussions over a meal about these suggested texts, especially Qur’an verses, and their “historical/scriptural context” would have had significant effect.

Faith Shared and whoever advises them totally don’t get the Qur’an’s central theme. I will write a post explaining the meaning behind these verses and will go through the exegeses of each one of them to show how historically and contextually these verses were not intended for interfaith outreach. I will explore and expound on each verse using classical Islamic commentaries and Hadith. Interfaith dialogues are noble for promoting peace. However, Faith Shared’s idea is an interfaith dialogue riddled with ignorance.

Muslims’ intention in interfaith dialogues is about propagating Islam. Even Sufi Muslims want a dialogue to end with a non-Muslim converting to Islam. Sufi scholar Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of Islamic Supreme Council of America says:

As for interfaith, I am not saying I care for it, I don’t. But if someone wants to make interfaith to make an introduction to Islam, it is OK. As long as they don’t become Christian or Jew or Zoroastrian, then it is acceptable. That is a way to tell people they are wrong and tell them their mistakes.

Rev. Gaddy laments “a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Why is he doing public relations work for Islam, promoting it through interfaith dialogues when even Muslims have made their motives clear? Muslims use interfaith dialogues as a venue to stop Islam’s public relations hemorrhage. Many Christians are ignorant of that fact and come to Islam’s rescue. They perhaps confuse Muslimophobia with Islamophobia. Every followers of Jesus Christ ought to fight Muslimophobia but should leave Islamophobia to Muslims. For more information, please read HERE.

June 8th, 2011

Answered Prayers: End of My Asylum Case Imminent

I am very grateful to all who prayed for my wife and I the past year. My asylum case has been reopened, which means I will not be leaving the United States in order to pursue other legal US immigration status.

A year ago the Associated Press broke the news that the federal court of appeals had declined to overturn a lower court’s decision to deny me asylum and refused to reverse the order to send me back to Kenya, where I had suffered persecution for converting to Christianity. I learned of the court’s decision from the media. Since then, I filed a motion to reopen my asylum case with the Board of Immigration Appeals and it has been granted (AP story). The decision in part reads:

Considering the totality of circumstances presented in the respondent’s motion, which has not been opposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the proceedings are reopened under the provisions of 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(a), and the record will be remanded to the Immigration Judge to provide the respondent a further opportunity to establish his eligibility for relief from removal…

FURTHER ORDER (sic): The record is remanded to the Immigration Judge for further proceedings not inconsistent with this order and for the entry of a new decision.

The motion, which you can find HERE, showed new evidence of change in country conditions in Kenya. I cited sworn statements of cases of severe persecutions of Muslim converts to Christianity with at least one of them killed since my petition was denied in 2006.

This has been a long and arduous process for my wife and I. The order to reopen my asylum case is our first real good news regarding immigration in almost 9 years. If you think only those who overstay their visas or undocumented immigrants run into manifestations of broken US immigration laws, think again. I filed for asylum in August 2002 while I was still in legal status, but my application was denied and was not referred to the Immigration Court for adjudication. My asylum interview was only 45 minutes long. A veteran immigration attorney and law professor told me afterward the asylum office normally decides even before an interview which asylum application to deny. Since my interview was short, it met that criterion. I reapplied and the asylum office told me to petition the Immigration Court. Here is an excerpt of a message I received from my attorney about my subsequent application:

I have some disturbing news for you.  I just received back from the Chicago Asylum Office your application for asylum. In the cover letter from the Immigration Service, I am told that, because your previous application was denied by the Asylum Office, that you must make your request for asylum to the Immigration Court.

This makes no sense and does not comport with the Immigration Service’s own rules.It is also not consistent with other cases: for example, I just filed an application for a young man from Ivory Coast who is in your same procedural situation and his interview at the Asylum Office is next week.

My question for you is this:  given that you would likely be denied again by the Asylum Office (it is very rare that the Asylum Office will grant asylum on a second application if the first application was already denied) and sent to the Immigration Court, do you wish to make your request to the Immigration Court directly?  Where you make your application makes very little difference but, in terms of timing, if you skip the step of going to the Asylum Office interview, you could have a hearing in the Immigration Court in late-summer or early-fall while, if you go through the Asylum Office, you will not have a hearing in the Immigration Court until late-fall. Either way is fine for me but I want you to make the decision because the timing may affect other plans you have. [Emphasis mine.]

I filed my third application with the Court and had a hearing in 2006!

The Judge found my testimony credible but denied my asylum petition because US State Department Country Reports on Kenya did not show any persecution of Muslim apostates in Kenya. Sadly, US Embassy in Nairobi mostly relies on Kenyan mainstream media to compile Kenya Country Report and there are reasons discussed below they have been silent on issues of religious persecution. I have complied with every request or order of the US government and appealed every adverse decision in accordance with established US immigration laws.

In the case of a Muslim convert who was killed in February 2010, the Kenyan police determined his murder was a robbery, even disregarding death threats he had reported to them. There is no known media report in Kenya of his gruesome murder, let alone a report revealing his killing was on the account of his apostasy.

I am in contact with other Muslim apostates in Kenya. Some of them receive death threats on regular basis. The police have been of little help. The Kenyan media has turned a deaf ear to their plights as well. The closest to a news report is in the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010:

Local Christian organizations reported that individuals who converted to Christianity from Islam, particularly individuals of Somali ethnic origin, were often threatened with violence or death by Muslim religious leaders and their families. These threats prompted some individuals to go into hiding.

I have made inquiries to the Kenyan media regarding the lack of coverage of religious persecution. A Kenyan reporter said there was news blackout because the Kenyan “media policies are very strict, especially when it comes to reports on religion.” He even averred how the East African Standard offices were burnt down in the mid 1990s because the newspaper published an article on Islam written by a Muslim scholar. An Ismaili Muslim organization is the principal shareholder of the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper with a wide circulation. Perhaps that explains why Muslim persecution of apostates got no coverage in the paper.

I am grateful for the Board’s decision granting me options for immigration relief. The order for me to leave the United States has been vacated and I will have a new hearing to determine my new immigration status.

Going through the asylum process has been very hard for me. Thoughts of whether I have been trying to “save” my life have lingered. Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”[1] Am I putting my trust in the United States’ government to save me from persecution that God has apportioned for me? I have sometimes wondered why I have been going through this arduous process with everything seeming to work against me but now I am very thankful for this good news. The end is imminent.


[1] Luke 17:33, NIV.

May 20th, 2011

Islamophobia and a Christian: Is it a Sin?

The term islamophobia isn’t in the dictionary yet. In a matter of time, it will find its place. Even though this term should exclusively deal with an irrational dread, fear or hatred of Islam, Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have broadened it to include muslimophobia—irrational fear of Muslims. Why would an organization as organized as CAIR jumble these terms? Not especially when it wants to end them. We shouldn’t confuse islamophobia with muslimophobia. We can only effectively fight any kind of phobia if we know what it is.

I was saddened to read in the news two Muslim clerics who were headed to an islamophobia conference were deplaned two weeks ago. Why should these clerics miss their flight when they were subjected to and passed all airport security screening twice. Apparently, some passengers were uncomfortable with their mere presence on the flight and the pilot decided against having them aboard. This is a classic example of muslimophobia.

Islamophobia is also a problem and it is not endemic just to non-Muslims. Even Muslims suffer from it. Most Muslims who make media appearances in the West quote mostly abrogated verses of the Qur’an perhaps fearing their audience might not accept authentic Islam’s message. Even one of the Muslim clerics who was a victim of muslimophobia exhibited some signs of islamophobia in ensuing media interviews.

Imam Masudur Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer said, “We need to tell people the truth about Islam: It is a religion of peace, a religion of justice, a religion honoring other people, regardless of color or religion.” He continued to say, “The Quran says: You practice your religion, I practice mine. There should be no compulsion in religion.” [Emphasis Mine.]

Imam Rahman quoted two verses from the Qur’an and totally misled reporter Tim Funk and every person who read his statement. Surah 109 verse 6 reads, “You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.” All commentaries of the Qur’an agree this verse was revealed when Prophet Muhammad was dealing with idolaters in Mecca when Islam was in its nascent stage and had just a few followers. However, later on when Muhammad gained more followers “he was commanded to wage war [against the idolaters].”

I wish Muslims who quote verses from the Qur’an would tell non-Muslims the meanings behind them. So much for Imam Rahman claiming Islam leaves non-Muslims to have their own religions. Contrary to what this verse remotely portrays, Prophet Muhammad ended up eradicating all religions that preceded Islam from the Arabian Peninsula and then declared, “Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula.” Whatever happened to freedom of religion in Islam Imam Rahman claimed to exist!

Another part of Imam Rahman’s quote in the interview addresses Surah 2 verse 256 which wholly reads, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” The Imam once again did not tell Mr. Funk this verse—CAIR and most Muslims in the media quote to show how Islam is about religious freedom—was abrogated. It was revealed in Medina when Prophet Muhammad had just migrated from Mecca and Islam still had only a few followers. Qur’an commentaries show this verse was revealed when the Ansar—Arabs of Medina who had embraced Islam—tried to convert their sons to Islam. The commentaries further show later, when two Muslims apostatized and Prophet Muhammad heard about their apostasy, he recited the same verse and said, “May Allah banish both of them. They are the first to disbelieve.” The founder of Islam cursed the first Muslims who apostatized because he did not have the power to kill them. He decreed later three times here, here, and here, every Muslim who apostatized should be killed. Muslims are required to obey Muhammad’s commands. Allah said twenty-nine times in the Qur’an a Muslim must also obey Muhammad. How could Islam be (quoting Imam Rahman again)  “a religion honoring other people, regardless of … religion,” when the command against apostasy is very explicit?

Imam Rahman and CAIR spokespersons exhibit symptoms of islamophobia. How else would someone as knowledgeable as he or an organization as organized as CAIR mislead reporters about the meaning of verses of the Qur’an they quote?

We can only deal with islamophobia candidly if we can separate it from muslimophobia. The latter is unmerited. It is a sin for a Christian to hate a Muslim. We are called to love even our enemies. Most Muslims are peaceful and would not harm anyone. There is no point of being afraid of them. On the other hand, Islam is an ideology and the violent kind as practiced by “extremists” is authentic Islam. There is nothing wrong with a Christian raising an alarm about the violent aspect of Islam, especially when prominent Muslims aren’t brave enough to acknowledge it, instead call any critic of Islam a bigot.

Let us end muslimophobia and leave islamophobia to Muslims. Perhaps when Muslims agree with Irshad Manji and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser there is a dire need for reform in Islam and publicly distinguish islamophobia from muslimophobia, then maybe islamophobia might face its demise as well.

 

 

 

Hussein Hajji Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs regularly here. You can listen to his testimony here or read it here.

March 28th, 2011

Allah, Prophet Muhammad, Muslims and Hell

There has been a lot of discussion about “Hell” lately, courtesy of Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. I have heard cases the news coverage of this book has made some conversations with non-believers possible.

What does Islam teach about Hell and who goes in it? Prophet Muhammad—the closest Muslim to Allah—said in the Hadith that he did not know if Allah would let him into paradise or send him to Hell. This happened when he was asked whether a pious Muslim man who had died would go to paradise. He didn’t just answer the question but dropped a bombshell. He responded, “As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266.).”[1] Do ordinary Muslims stand any chance of escaping Hell?

Allah said in the Qur’an, in Suratul Al-Maryam, 19:71, “There is not one of you but shall come to it, that is, [but] shall enter Hell. That is an inevitability [already] decreed by your Lord, [something which] He made inevitable and [which] He decreed; He will not waive it.”

This verse is pretty clear Allah said all Muslims will go to Hell, regardless of their pious lives. Some Muslim scholars disagree. However, they are in disagreement with Prophet Muhammad who said, “The believers, after being saved from the (Hell) Fire, will be stopped at a bridge between Paradise and Hell.”[2] Who are the believers who are “saved from Hell”?

What is this Bridge? A widely used Qur’an commentary written by Abdullah Yusuf Ali states “the Bridge over Hell, the Bridge Sirat, over which all must pass to their final Destiny. This Bridge is not mentioned in the Qur’an.” Yusuf Ali was forthright in bringing to his readers’ attention the bridge Muslims widely believe would stretch over Hell is not mentioned in the Qur’an. Since Allah didn’t reveal it to Prophet Muhammad, where did Muhammad get it? That is another Crack in the Crescent for another time.[3]

 

 

 


[1] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266.

[2] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 542.

[3] Chapter 12 of Cracks in the Crescent.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 542.